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Plankton size, climate and ocean function through time.

Project Description

Project Rationale:
Plankton are fundamental to life on Earth as the base of the marine food web and an important carbon sink. They are currently being impacted by climate change, especially changing temperature and related factors such as ocean acidification, but how this will affect their biological, ecological and biogeochemical role (their so-called ‘function’) in ocean food-webs and chemical cycles (predominantly the carbon cycle) is uncertain. We are able to study examples of past response to climate change by using the fossil record of calcareous nannoplankton (predominantly coccolithophores) which are single-celled plankton in the size range of 1–20 microns with an exquisite exoskeleton of calcite plates. In this project, we will bring together two state-of-the-art approaches to understanding the role of plankton in our oceans and the effects of climate change: 1) the cellular record of exquisitely preserved and intact fossil coccolithophores (called coccospheres) [1] and 2) new eco-evolutionary modelling of plankton communities [2]. This integration provides a powerful approach that will allow us to explore for the first time the evolving function of coccolithophores in ocean food webs and biogeochemical cycling through time.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibilty and how to apply


[1] Gibbs, S.J., et al. (2013) Species-specific growth response of coccolithophores to Palaeocene–Eocene environmental change. Nature Geosciences, 6, 218-222.
[2] Ward, B.A., et al., (2019). Considering the Role of Adaptive Evolution in Models of the Ocean and Climate System. EarthArXiv. August 29. doi:10.31223/
[3] Alvarez, S.A., et al. (2019) Diversity decoupled from ecosystem function and resilience during mass extinction recovery. Nature. **If available online by October**.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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